The Shaolin Monks make an amazing commitment. They dedicate their lives to improving the lives of others. They give up all their earthly attachments, live a life of simplicity in a temple at the foot of Song Mountain, and spend their lives studying the Shaolin Arts.
Most of us can appreciate that, and perhaps even admire these individuals. But, we probably can’t relate to it. After all, we have busy lives. Family, friends, work, school, study, bills…and can any of us remember the last time they got to the end of their “to do” list? The difference between a Shaolin monk’s life and our daily existence in the West is as far apart as America and the Shaolin Temple. These are two completely different worlds.
Grandmaster’s Journey to the Temple
In his book, An American’s Journey to the Shaolin Temple, Grandmaster DeMasco describes entering that world and his initial interview with the Great Abbott. The Great Abbott asked him, “How do the poor live in America?” Grandmaster explained that the poor live in tremendous lack, in neighborhoods very near those who are wealthy. In addition to poverty and hopelessness, poor Americans also contend with anger and envy seeing people just a few miles away living with big houses, nice cars, plenty of food, and great opportunities.
Throughout years, as he studied the ways of Shaolin, Grandmaster began to realize that while we may not be Shaolin Monks ourselves, many of the Shaolin principles can help us in our daily lives. He weaved this into the Life Skills program taught in our studios and discussed it in his book, The Shaolin Way.
“The skills we need to function today may be different from those the monks practiced so many years ago in the temple and on their journeys,” Grandmaster challenges, “but the principles Shaolin taught them are still the same: to really live your life every day and not just ‘get by’ means dealing with change and breaking some of your ‘personal rules,’ two of the most difficult things for a person to do.”
Grandmaster doesn’t challenge you to leave your family, sell your belongings, shave your head, and move into a temple. But he does challenge your assumptions and your excuses. There are hundreds of pages of wisdom in his work, and we encourage you to read the book, but that’s not our point here.
We are all connected
The Shaolin Monks study what we all intuitively know – that we are all connected as human beings. They believe we are all our brother’s keeper. It’s at the core of our humanity to want to improve the lives of others. Shaolin Honesty includes knowing that we’re as flawed and imperfect as anyone. Shaolin Respect also means being humble before all. Sometimes, Shaolin Patience is returning a harsh word with kindness. Most of all, we know that compassion is always right, and Shaolin Self-Discipline means we still do what’s right.
We admire the Mother Theresas and Dalai Lamas of the world because they improved the lives of others on such a broad scale. They are quotable figures with a terrific story. But we don’t have to be a monk or a superhero nun to make a big difference. We have a chance to do that every day.
We just have to do what the monks do. Stop, listen, and then, act. Guaranteed, a chance will present itself, and you’ll be a hero to somebody.